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Gay marriage opponent to run for D.C. Council seat

Harry Thomas resignation triggers Ward 5 special election

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Delano Hunter. (Courtesy photo)

An outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage who is backed by anti-gay groups says he plans to run for the Ward 5 D.C. Council seat that became vacant Thursday night when incumbent Council member Harry Thomas resigned.

Delano Hunter, a Ward 5 civic activist who unsuccessfully challenged Thomas in the September 2010 Democratic primary, told the Washington City paper this week that he plans to run for the seat in a special election expected to take place in May.

“It’s certainly my intention to run again if the seat opens up,” the City Paper quoted him as saying just prior to Thomas’s resignation.

Thomas, a Democrat, announced his resignation less than a day after federal authorities charged him with felony theft for allegedly embezzling more than $350,000 in government funds and allegedly filing false income tax returns with the IRS.

Thomas was expected to plead guilty to at least two charges on Friday morning in U.S. District Court as part of a plea bargain arrangement, according sources familiar with the case.

“I am resigning my position as a member of the Council effective immediately,” Thomas said in a statement released Thursday night. “I made some very serious mistakes and exhibited inadequate and flawed judgment. I take full responsibility for my actions. I am truly sorry.”

Among those calling for Thomas’s resignation last fall, when news surfaced that he was about to be charged with an embezzlement related offense, were Robert Turner, president of the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group; and Robert Kabel, the openly gay chairman of the D.C. Republican Party.

Most gay Democratic activists who supported Thomas before news surfaced about his legal problems, including the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, did not join others in calling for his resignation.

Thomas drew praise from LGBT activists in 2009 when he voted for the city’s same-sex marriage law over strong objections from many of his Ward 5 constituents, who oppose gay marriage. A large number of the ward’s residents are socially conservative African Americans who support civil rights related legislation but oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Clergy from black churches in the ward testified against the marriage bill during a contentious City Council hearing prior to the Council’s vote to approve the bill in December 2009.

The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and other national groups opposed to same-sex marriage contributed tens of thousands of dollars for direct mail, robocalls, and racially divisive flyers attacking Thomas during his re-election campaign in 2010, according to Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, an LGBT-supportive organization.

Right Wing Watch said some of the same anti-gay groups supported Delano Hunter’s race against Thomas but didn’t contribute large amounts of money directly to his campaign.

A NOM spokesperson couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
LGBT activists were quick to point out that the attack campaign against Thomas had little effect. He won the Democratic primary with just under 62 percent of the vote. Hunter came in second with 19 percent of the vote.

Gay Republican Tim Day, a member of Log Cabin Republicans, ran against Thomas in the general election in November 2010 but lost by a lopsided margin in a ward that is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Other Democrats are expected to run in the May special election for Thomas’s seat. LGBT advocates and gay residents of the ward will likely appeal to Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who formerly held the Ward 5 seat, to back a candidate supportive of LGBT equality and same-sex marriage. Orange remains a popular figure in the Ward.

He opposed same-sex marriage at the time he held his Ward 5 seat and when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2006. But Orange changed his position shortly before he ran for the at-large Council seat in a special election, saying he now strongly supports civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Even if Hunter were to win the Ward 5 seat, the same-sex marriage law is considered to be a settled issue by most the city’s political establishment. Anti-gay groups failed in an attempt to bring the marriage law before D.C. voters in a referendum. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld rulings by the city’s lower courts that an existing city law prevents a referendum from being held if its outcome would lead to discrimination – in this case discrimination against same-sex couples seeking to marry.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Jos. A. Mustich, CT USA

    January 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    In the words of Malcolm X, just another “house Negro.”
    Onward to full civil and marriage equality rights now. Period,
    Cheers, Joe Mustich, CT USA
    Marriage Officiant & Justice of the Peace

  2. Morgan

    January 8, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Is Delano Hunter an anti-gay bigot in general beyond the DC marriage equality issue that I read here he opposes?

    Seems to me that marriage equality is here to stay as it should in the nation’s capital city.

    Waiting for Maryland to gain the marriage equality it should have in 2012. If NOM (National Organization (for straights only) Marriage) hates that, then to hell with NOM. NOM was all over itself with giddy elation when marriage equality failed in the MD legislature to reach the MD governor by just 2 votes in 2011. The more defeats handed to NOM the better. Two defeats were handed to NOM this year on January 1st, 2012. Delaware and Hawai’i became civil union states on that day.

    Many gay people are not for civil unions, they are for full marriage equality. Civil unions are still a defeat for NOM as NOM views them “as a back door to marriage”. And civil unions can be converted to civil marriage later on as has happened in the states CT, VT, and NH. And will hopefully happen this year or next in NJ.
    And hopefully this year, the majority of NH citizens reject the efforts on the part of goofy GOP legislators to repeal top notch marriage equality for NH same-sex couples and replace it with meaningless civil unions for any 2 people that noone has to accept. A big hiss at the GOP legislators for working to repeal NH marriage equality and to replace it with a meaningless and worthless pile of legislative “dung”.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January

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SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9

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David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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